There is not enough service income within pharmacy to warrant a network of hubs, as detailed in the Government’s hub and spoke consultation proposals, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has warned.

It comes as the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) launched a consultation last month to consider if all community pharmacies should use the hub and spoke dispensing model.

The CCA said that while it ‘welcomed’ the consultation which could remove restrictions from section 10 of the Medicines Act 1968 and allow hub and spoke models to operate across legal entities, it also had concerns over the proposals.

It said: ‘The experience of CCA members is that hub and spoke only delivers capacity benefits if there is additional investment to either move the workload to a hub, or fund additional activity in the spoke. With this in mind, we are very concerned that there simply is not enough service income within the current flat national funding envelope to warrant a network of hubs across the country.

‘Over the last decade, local services have been systematically scaled back in response to government challenges. We estimate that locally commissioned services now account for less than 1% of overall pharmacy funding. We also note that offering private services to fill any shortfall of funding does not support NHS efforts to tackle health inequalities, nor recognise the vital role community pharmacy plays within the most deprived communities.’

Malcolm Harrison, CEO of the CCA, added that he would ‘caution against firm predictions’ about the benefits of this model without ‘stronger commitments to enablers of change’.

CCA did not call for the change

Mr Harrison also disputed claims made about who called for the proposals, given some concerns that larger businesses could benefit more from the changes.

He said: ‘The CCA is also aware of claims that only the large businesses which currently operate automated facilities would stand to benefit from the changes in legislation governing dispensing between legal entities. 

‘We think it is worth clarifying that neither the CCA nor any of its members have ever called for this change. This direction of travel by DHSC was initiated by parties from outside of the CCA and its membership.’

Within the consultation, the Government proposed two separate hub and spoke dispensing models: one where a patient’s prescription is assembled by the hub and sent back to the spoke to make the supply, and another where the hub supplies the prescription directly to the patient.

At the time, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) welcomed some key points in the consultation, including the fact that hubs need to be a registered pharmacy. But also called for greater investment in order to produce ‘real value’ as a service.

Previously, the NPA called on the Competition Market Authority to ensure hubs can compete fairly on quality of services and price, so that independent pharmacies do not suffer and medicine supply is not dominated.

The consultation is open until 8 June.